People label Jesus as a revolutionary. They talk about His radical teaching and how He brought in a way of looking at things that was rejected by the powers that be. Maybe. That is certainly true in spiritual terms. We no longer have to bring a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. He has done that for all time. But that is not what people usually mean when they talk about Him being a radical. They are talking about what He said, not about what He did and who He is.
They are wrong in the sense they mean. If you spend any time in the Old Testament you find that Jesus was often reteaching old truths. The reason they seem radical is that people have been ignoring what God has said for centuries. They sometimes speak from ignorance. This verse and the next are clearly the source of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:7.
The simple understanding is a lesson in social behavior. It is a way to avoid embarrassment. It is better to be honored by being called to a higher position that shamed by being moved down. At a wedding reception, don’t try to sit by the bride because you are one of her friends.
At the heart of this is a call to humility. We are not to “put forth” (claim honor NASB) (1921) ourselves. This has the meaning of swelling up. We have all seen nature films of puffer fish, frogs, porcupines and other animals that have ways to make themselves look bigger. We should be doing the opposite. We should deflate instead of inflate. We are called to serve, not be served.
We are also better off avoiding the company of the rich and the famous. This brings to mind a passage in Psalms:
Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, #Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! NASBAlthough there are exceptions, positions of power seem to be filled with the wicked, sinners and scoffers. I don’t think that the powerful are any more evil in their hearts than the rest of us, I just think their money gives them more opportunity to defy moral law. It is best to avoid them.
So be content where you are. This does not rule out hard work and ambitious dreams. It does limit the amount of compromise you are willing to endure to achieve it. Don’t trade your family for a fortune. Don’t give up paradise for a promotion. Make sure you are doing it God’s way.